For New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, the 2013 season was, for all intents and purposes, a nightmare.
The 2013 campaign was his worst in pinstripes, and it can even be argued that it was also the worst of his entire career. During last season, Sabathia ended with a 14-13 record (.519 winning percentage), registering a 4.78 ERA, marking the worst statistical year in each category for the 33-year-old southpaw.
The former AL Cy Young Award winner labored with uncomfortable mechanics and a lack of velocity and control that hasn’t been witnessed at such a consistent level at all during his so far successful MLB career.
Granted, the Yankees weren’t quite the team that Sabathia was used to having around him, with the seemingly endless amount of injuries, revolving door at catcher after Russell Martin‘s departure, and near-minor league lineup, but even the horse himself wasn’t able to fight his way through to will the Yanks into the postseason.
For Yankee fans, even though the 2013 season is one that will be gladly forgotten, even with their struggles the Yankees finished over .500 and nearly reached the 90-win plateau. While in Yankee standards 85 wins has become a subpar year, the fact that they made due with what they had was certainly something to be excited about as the team heads into this 2014 season with an entirely revamped roster.
While Sabathia may have underperformed last year, all signs from Spring Training point to his return to the top once he begins his 2014 season on Tuesday in Houston.
Through four starts, the lefty notched a 2-1 record, an impressive 1.29 ERA and a .765 WHIP. His latest outing, a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, saw him close out his Spring Training run with four scoreless innings to make fans of the Bronx Bombers feel a little easier as Opening Day inches closer.
Sabathia has been virtually lights out during his time in the Sunshine State this month, and if he can carry that success over into the regular season, Yankee fans may get the chance to see the Sabathia of old take the mound this year. While not necessarily penciling him in for his second Cy Young just yet, when Sabathia is on the top of his game, few pitchers in the majors can top his stuff.
If he remains consistent throughout the whole year and maintains the same level of play, he could help the Yankees ride the wave back to the top of the AL East.
Another thing that would help Sabathia get back on track is the support he will have behind him. Last year, the Yanks fielded an injury-riddled rotation that saw many different pitchers appear in the four and five spots throughout the course of the season. The turnaround of being the No. 1 pitcher coming off of an inconsistent start from the back end is a difficult task, no matter who you are or how good you may be.
This season, New York’s rotation looks much better, with Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda slated to make up the starting five on Opening Day. Should Pineda impress in the regular season as much as he has in Spring Training, and of course should he and the other starters remain healthy, that will take a lot of pressure off of the 6-foot-7, 285 pound pitcher’s back.
With Sabathia another year older, the lightening of the load will be a welcome sign for him and the rest of the organization. If he is able to take the mound with less pressure put on him each time he gets the ball, he can finally get back to doing what he does best, without all the mental and mechanical strain that plagued him last year.
October is still a very long ways away, but if Sabathia’s performance this spring gives any inkling of what fans can expect this year, 2014 may mark another fun one for the men in pinstripes.
Sabathia was superb throughout his tune-up in Tampa. While the team has a lot of work to do, the turnaround begins with him on Opening Day next Tuesday.